Broadening its potential market opportunity, C3 Energy has changed its name, and somewhat its focus. The new company is now called C3.ai. While the name change might seem to indicate a significant change in the company, the functional focus is still on assembling and analyzing large amounts of operational and customer data into information and action. Most of the technology vendors, like Itron, GE, Schneider, Siemens, ABB, etc, have steered their offerings towards the Internet of things (IoT) market. For companies with existing analytical and Big Data offerings, a focus on IoT typically doesn’t require a large investment in new products. With IoT’s most valuable component being taking large amounts of data from diverse sources and deriving insight and direct actions, it makes sense for C3.ai to broaden its approach to the market and take it beyond energy markets.
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C3.ai sees the future as a more horizontal approach and is taking what it has learned and developed in the utility space and applying it to other industries, like manufacturing and retail. Manufacturing, especially, is becoming a crowded space for IoT. Traditional manufacturing companies like PTC have invested heavily in staying at the forefront of the manufacturing IoT market. In a vacuum, it would appear to be a tough market for C3.ai to penetrate. But C3.ai has an established track record in the utility space that can provide immediate and successful references. In contrast, Some vendors, like EnerNOC, seem to be heading in the opposite direction. EnerNOC competes with C3.ai in areas around Demand Response (DR) in the utility market. EnerNOC is doubling down on its specialty and core, electric utility DR programs. What Energy Insights sees is energy grid and analytics companies either trying to broaden their appeal to the larger IoT market or going even deeper into energy markets.
C3.ai can bring its data and analytical capabilities to the adjacent markets quickly. With Tom Siebel’s name at the head of C3.ai, name and brand recognition should be established rapidly. The key for C3.ai, and any company trying to establish itself as an IoT player, is to get real-world use cases and references lined up as soon as possible. User executives are developing heavy amounts of skepticism towards technology vendors focused on IoT. Those executives want to understand what is different about IoT than what they have been doing for the last 20 years. They want to see how the advancements in device connectivity, analytics, data science, and customer engagement come together under the banner of IoT. To really establish itself, like they did in the utility space, C3.ai needs to take a functional area like New Product Introduction (NPI) and show how they can take all the information from multiple silos and present information that can help a company prioritize investments and deliver new products faster. That is just one example in one market of the multitude of these business processes that span the organizational silos of end user companies. If C3.ai can help companies cross the silos, they can bring the IoT message they have built in the utility market to other industries.
For customers of C3 Energy, there should be little reason to feel uneasy. Any change in focus for a technology supplier can be a cause for concern. But in C3.ai’s case, the investment is relatively light from a technology standpoint. The IoT foundation is there from the C3 Energy building blocks. There will have to be a shift in sales and support, but C3.ai has the resources and the investment available to support a broader push. The short of it is that current and future companies should rest easy that C3.ai will not become distracted. In fact, it’s IDC Energy Insights’ opinion that utility customers of C3.ai will benefit from developments that come about from C3.ai’s expansion into other markets.